Byrnes’s text: #101 John Cannon

Link to REVISED entry on #101 John Cannon

From Byrnes’s text:

DESCRIPTION. Forty-seven years old in 1886. A Pennsylvania Dutchman. Married. No trade. Height, 5 feet 5 inches. Weight, 150 pounds. Dark brown hair, inclined to curl in front of his ears; large, light gray eyes, left eye watery; large nose; very heavy brown beard and mustache. Small scar near end of nose. Claims to be an American-born Irishman. Can fix himself up to look like a “Sheeny.”

RECORD. Jack Cannon is one of the most widely-known and dangerous thieves in America. He was arrested in New Orleans, La., on March 10, 1886, in company of Thomas White, alias Montreal Tom, and George Wilson, alias “The Peoria Kid,” charged with robbing one Effie Hankins, of Chicago, of $8,000 worth of diamonds at the house of May Banker, on Union Street that city the night previous.

The following is a very interesting account published in one of the papers of the arrest of Cannon and his associates in New Orleans:

“…a full and complete history of this man’s adventures would fill a volume with thrilling escapes, desperate undertakings, and successful burglaries and robberies. If Cannon was not born in the city of New Orleans he was raised here, and up to a few years ago had a brother engaged in mercantile pursuits here. His real name is said to be Hannon, and he formerly resided on Dryades, between Girod and Julia streets. He attended the St. Joseph’s School, on Common Street, and his first step in crime was made in this city. Of his earlier exploits but little is known to the detectives, as they were comparatively trifling robberies or larcenies, and either escaped the memory of one of the oldest detectives in the city, or were of no import, and hence never came to his knowledge.

“Detectives Gaster and Cain had been looking for Cannon for some time past and had been warned to move cautiously when arresting him as he would shoot “at the drop of a hat.” On the morning of the arrest, March 11, 1886, when they espied Cannon in front of the St. Charles Hotel with Roberts, alias Tommy White, and Wilson, they accosted him and requested his presence at the office of the Chief of Police. Cannon was at first disinclined to go quietly and made several suspicious movements with his hand to his hip pocket. Cain was watching him closely while Gaster was eloquently arguing and pleading with Cannon and his two friends as to the propriety of going along quietly. Cannon hesitated a while, and turning to Gaster informed him that he had doubtless made a mistake, as he was a gentleman and was stopping at the Hotel Royal. Gaster did not dispute this, especially as Cannon exhibited the key of his room, but Cannon could not be convinced that he ought to go to the Chief’s office.

“Fearing doubtless that his refusal would excite still more suspicion, Cannon asked who was Chief of Police. Gaster replied that the Chief was sick and that his secretary was acting in his stead. This satisfied Cannon, who became assured that the secretary would not know him, and the three prisoners and the two detectives arrived safely at the Chief’s office. The first man they met in the office was Captain Malone, and Cannon was visibly agitated and sought to turn his head. The Captain eyed him keenly a few moments and said: “I know your face, but can’t place you just now.” He sat looking at Cannon a few moments and then recognized him, and called him by name. Cannon denied his name, said that he was named Collins, and had never been known as Cannon. The Captain then entered into conversation with him, and recalled many names of thieves and suspicious characters, now dead, but who had been known to Cannon some fifteen or twenty years ago.

“Cannon became interested, and commenced asking questions of others. Captain Malone informed Cannon that his picture was in the “gallery,” but this Cannon would not believe. He said that no picture of himself was extant. The Captain told him that some nineteen or twenty years ago, whilst Cannon was rooming on Toulouse, between Dauphine and Burgundy streets, his room had been searched for burglars’ tools and plunder, and the officers had then found a full length photograph of him in the room and had carried it away with them. This picture had been placed in a conspicuous position in the gallery, and all during the political troubles and changes had remained there and was there then.

“This was a disagreeable surprise to Cannon, and he desired to see the picture, but this request was not granted and the trio were locked up. Roberts was conducted to Clarke’s gallery, where his picture was taken, and when the three prisoners were brought to the First Recorder’s Court, the detectives concluded to have a picture of Cannon taken. When they entered the dock they informed Cannon of what they intended to do. Cannon became greatly excited, and, pulling off his coat, declared that he would die before they should take his “mug.” His picture was not in any collection in the United States, he said, and it shouldn’t be taken in New Orleans.

“‘Who ordered this?’ asked Cannon. ‘The Chief of Police,’ said the detectives. Cannon thereupon directed his wrath against Captain Malone and hurled invectives on his head. ‘I am sorry I didn’t kill him years ago,’ said the burglar. ‘I had the chance then and was laying for him. Oh, I know well where he lives—down on Dauphine Street, near Esplanade. I piped him off one night, and was hid near his house. I had a gun drawn on him, and was about to shoot, but at the last moment I relented, and Malone entered his house in safety, and unconscious of the peril he had been in. I’m very sorry now I didn’t finish the job I started out to do.’

“After having vented his spleen in words, Cannon was again informed that his picture was to be taken. “There is no law for it,” he said; “you will have to take my picture after I’m dead, if you want it.” The detective tried coaxing, but Cannon was obdurate, and turning to Roberts, asked his advice. Roberts replied, “I haven’t anything to do with it; it’s your ‘mug,’ not mine,” Finding Cannon very stubborn, the officers informed Recorder Davey of what they wanted, and when the prisoners were arraigned, Judge Davey told Cannon that the police were very anxious to secure his photograph, and that he had better submit quietly.

“After being remanded the detective entered the dock and proceeded to place handcuffs on Cannon’s wrists. He resisted, and again becoming excited, cursed everybody connected with the police. He said that he could have escaped from the parish prison that morning had he been able to run, and regretted not having made the attempt anyhow. Cannon was securely handcuffed, and was then marched down to Clarke’s Gallery, on Canal Street. Four detectives escorted him, and in due time he arrived there, and was placed in a chair in front of the camera. The operator had been informed that he would encounter considerable difficulty in catching Cannon, and he therefore moved with great caution. Before Cannon knew that he was ready the operator quickly removed the cover, and as quickly replaced it, securing a good likeness by the instantaneous process. He then said to Cannon : ‘Are you ready now?’ ‘Yes,’ replied the latter, and screwing up one corner of his mouth, shutting one eye, and distorting his features, he said, ‘Go ahead.’ The appearance of the man’s face was most ludicrous, and the operator and detectives burst into a laugh. They enjoyed it the more as they had already obtained what they were after, and the result of it all was an excellent likeness of Cannon, the noted burglar and desperado — the only one in existence, as far as known.

“Cannon appeared to be very despondent when he ascertained that he had been beaten at every point, and remarked, ‘Well, I guess you’ll do me up this time.’ He became communicative later, and spoke of old times in this city, and of himself. ‘I never robbed a poor man in my life,’ he said, ‘and haven’t turned a trick in New Orleans this winter.’ He had no money, but said he had plenty of friends to help him in case money could save him. He did not appear to be at all worried about going to Baton Rouge, as he believed he could make his escape either here or there.

“He spoke of the late detective Bobbie Harris, who was killed by the late chief of aids, Thomas Devereux. He told Gaster and Cain that he was with Harris when he broke his back. He said that Harris fell into a well near Vicksburg, Miss., while seeking to escape with him, and thus injured his spinal column, making him a cripple for life. Cannon has been the companion and pal of the most noted safe-blowers, bank robbers and cracksmen in this country, and is himself classed as one of the most expert hotel thieves on this continent.”

New Orleans, it would appear, has been the home and the scene of the debut of some of the most skillful and notorious burglars. First on the list of these is Billy Forrester (see No. 76), who is now in Massachusetts. He is a native of Lafourche, La., and was the leader of the gang who broke into Scooler’s jewelry store, on Canal, near Camp Street, at the time being associated with Daigo Frank and Dave Cummings. (See No. 50.) Cannon, as has already been stated in the Picayune, jumped his bonds in New Orleans in the Lilienthal robbery, which was committed on April, 11, 1876. His bondsman then was George Foster, proprietor of a restaurant and keeper of a fence on Toulouse Street, who has since died. Foster was a well known character and harborer of thieves in his day, and when the Lilienthal robbery was committed Cannon was lodging there. When Cannon left the city and his bondsman in the lurch descriptions of him were sent far and wide around the country, and he was compelled to remain very quiet.

Captain Malone’s untiring efforts are what aroused Cannon’s animosity, and considering him as a relentless enemy, he determined to rid himself of him. One day the Captain received a letter telling him that if he would meet the writer at the corner of Broad and Canal streets after dark on an appointed night, he would receive valuable information in regard to a gang of thieves. The Captain suspected something wrong, as the place appointed was in a very quiet and isolated part of the city, but he exhibited the letter to the then Chief of Police, Gen. A. S. Badger, who coincided with him in his suspicions.

Determined, however, to see the matter through, the Captain took two detectives with him, and proceeded to the appointed place at the appointed time. No one was in sight except a policeman in uniform, who was on the sidewalk, and on the approach of the detectives he moved leisurely away. The detectives concealed themselves, and Malone waited patiently, but no one came except one of the mounted policemen, who had been ordered to proceed to the place and remain in the vicinity until ordered away by Captain Malone. After remaining long after the time specified the officers returned to headquarters, and then the Captain sought to ascertain the name of the officer who was on foot at the place. To his surprise he found that no policeman was on duty in that neighborhood except mounted men, hence the man they saw was a bogus policeman, and doubtless a pal of the pretended informer, or the writer of the letter himself, the Captain kept this letter, and still has it in his possession, and when Cannon’s remark was repeated to him he at once came to the conclusion that Cannon was either the author of it or had caused it to be written, and that it was part of a plot the object of which was to put him out of the way.

Cannon’s pal on the occasion of the Lilienthal robbery was John Watson, who escaped from the First Precinct Station by making a skeleton key out of the handle of a water pail. He opened the lock of his cell door by means of this, and then opened a door in the rear wall of the station opening into the alleyway on the east side of what was then the barroom known as the Marble Hall. The police station and headquarters were then located where Soule’s Commercial College now is, and Watson, after opening the rear door, walked out to Lafayette, near Carondelet Street, where he broke into a run. He was recaptured out on Claiborne Street, having run into the arms of the Maria driver, George Bernard, who was subsequently killed by his head striking the arch over the gateway through which the Maria entered and came out of the workhouse. Bernard was just going to answer roll-call when Watson ran into his arms, and he held him fast and brought him back to the Central Station.

Watson subsequently again escaped, and made his way North, and from thence to England. About a year ago a very large amount of diamonds and jewelry were stolen in England, and cuts and descriptions of the gems were sent to all parts of the world. The robbery became known as the Hatton Garden robbery, and the Scotland Yard detectives were sent all over the civilized world to recover the diamonds and capture the thieves. In Paris Watson and his wife were captured and convicted of the robbery, and sentenced to long terms of imprisonment.

Cannon, some time after the Lilienthal robbery, left New Orleans, and kept away for a number of years. He established his headquarters in Philadelphia, where he was known as John Bartlett. He visited the South every winter, but up to two or three years ago, as far as known, kept away from New Orleans. When arrested for the Lilienthal robbery he presented a rough and uncouth appearance, more like that of a laboring man than of a “flash cove,” and when Captain Malone first laid eyes on him after his capture in the gutter under the street-crossing at the corner of Chartres and Bienville streets, he was surprised that such a looking man should be capable of so skillful a piece of work as opening the combination of Lilienthal’s safe, and it was not until some days afterward that Cannon’s ability to do such work became apparent.

He was then a young, strapping fellow; now he is a middle-aged, comparatively respectable-looking man, with a full chin beard and mustache. A few among the many robberies attributed to Cannon, or in which he was implicated, are the following:

–Hotel robbery at Jacksonville, Fla., in which a quantity of diamonds, watches and jewelry were stolen.
–Robbery of a store at Brownsville, Texas.
–Robbery of Schmidt’s store in Houston, Texas.
–Safe blowing at J. F. Meyer’s store at Houston, Texas. –Safe blowing at Macatus’ store, in the same place.
–Jewelry robbery at Galveston, Texas.
–Hotel robbery at Hotel Royal in New Orleans, also the robbery at the Gregg House in April, 1885; and many others.

Efforts were made to hold Cannon for the Lilienthal robbery. Of the officers who made the arrest at the time only two are living. Sergeant (afterwards Captain) James Gibney, promoted for this very arrest, died of consumption in 1873. Corporal (afterwards Sergeant) Kennedy was killed on September 14, 1874. Officer Coffee was killed by the notorious negro garroter and robber, Al Gossett, April 19, 1883. Officer Diehl is the proprietor of a grocery store at the corner of Miro and Dumaine streets, and with Officer Duvigneaud, who is at present engaged in the fruit business on Canal Street, is still alive. Cannon was captured with his portion of the booty on his person, and the last two mentioned officers were present at the time.

Cannon now claims Detroit, Mich., as his home, and when he registered his name in the Gregg House, in New Orleans, in April last, he booked himself as J. H. Stewart, Detroit, Mich. Roberts denied that he was the Tommy White who escaped from the penitentiary at Clarksville, Tenn., and stated his willingness to return there without the formality of a requisition if the authorities would take him there and then release him if it was proven that he was not the man. The picture of Roberts was identified, and that at once by the proprietress of the boarding-house, No. 6 St. Peter Street, New Orleans, adjoining the store of Mr. Piccaluga. She stated that during the month of December, 1885, the original of the picture rented the room on the first floor front for himself and a companion. On or about Christmas the store of Mr. Piccaluga was entered by burglars, who broke open the windows on the gallery on the same story occupied by her lodger. The safe was blown open and $60 in money stolen. Fortunately there was no more money than that amount in the safe that night, but several nights previously there had been large amounts in the safe. The burglars on this occasion were doubtless Roberts and Cannon.

As regards Roberts’ identity as Tommy White, alias “Curly Tommy,” the Chief of Police of Chicago said he was wanted in Clarksville, and was only too anxious to return thither in order to escape prosecution and punishment in New Orleans. Cannon appeared to rely greatly on the judgment and advice of Roberts, and the detectives infer from this that Roberts was the brain of the firm and Cannon the skill and muscle to carry out plans conceived by Roberts.

Wilson, the younger of the three, was not known at that time to the police, although they claim for him the alias of the “Peoria Kid,” and give him the reputation of being a first-class pickpocket. Cannon said to Roberts one day: “If we hadn’t been with the ‘Kid’ we would have been all right.” A telegram was received in New Orleans on March 22, 1886, from Peoria, Ill., identifying the picture of Wilson sent thither as that of George Stacey, alias H. B. Wilson, a former pupil of Joe Parish’s, and a most expert pickpocket and “pennyweight man.” The latter is the name applied to thieves who enter jewelry stores, and, whilst pretending to make purchases, unobservedly secrete diamonds and other valuables about their persons.

The three accused were brought before Recorder Davey to be arraigned for the Hankins diamond robbery, which was committed on Wednesday morning, March 10, 1886. Cannon appeared to be greatly worried, and his sinister light blue eyes roamed unceasingly around the room. He was very nervous and appeared to dread recognition from every person whom he detected eyeing him closely. His brown beard and mustache gave his face quite a respectable appearance, and had it not been for his restlessness a casual observer would most likely have taken him to be a lawyer employed to defend the other two. The first and only witness introduced was Mr. Charles Bush. The accused were asked to stand up, and the witness was asked if he could identify any of them. He replied that he had seen Cannon before, but did not recollect ever having seen the other two — Roberts and Wilson. As regards the recovery of the Hankins diamonds, and the alleged payment of a reward or a compromise to recover the jewels, he knew nothing.

Wilson, alias the Peoria Kid, and Tom White were discharged in this case on March 23, 1886. They immediately left town, but were arrested again in April, in Montgomery, Ala., while attempting to pawn some stolen property. The last arrest of White and Wilson was made by the Chief of Police of Montgomery, Ala., and when searched a package of burglars’ tools and a pawn ticket for a gold watch were found in their possession. Subsequently it was ascertained that the watch was the property of Mr. H. Jackson, of Selma, Ala., who, while on a visit to New Orleans and a guest at the Hotel Royal, had been robbed of his gold watch and about seventy-five dollars in money. This was the night prior to the arrest of John Cannon and the two above mentioned parties, March 9, 1886. It was subsequently ascertained that Cannon, who had a room in the Hotel Royal, had invited White, alias Roberts, to share his bed with him, and that night the rooms of several of the boarders, among them Mr. Jackson’s, were entered and robbed.

Cannon was an inmate of the parish prison, New Orleans, being held to answer a charge of assault and battery, until May 15, 1886, when he was convicted and sentenced to two years at hard labor. He was taken to Baton Rouge prison on June 17, 1886, On their arrival at Montgomery White and Wilson disposed of their stolen property, and were arrested. The following is some of Miss Hankins’s evidence relative to the loss of her diamonds. She said:

“‘I am from Chicago. I reside in this city at the Hotel Victor. On the night of the 9th or morning of the l0th March, 1886, 1 was at No. 68 Union Street. I am the person who was robbed. It was about 4 o’clock in the morning when the three men entered my room. A portion of the jewelry was on my arms and the balance on my dresser. My door was locked. The door was opened by a party in the room for the purpose of getting a glass of water. As the door opened a man put a revolver to his head and three men rushed in. I had retired. I retired that night about i o’clock. It was the front room on the first floor. It was not my first night in the room. I had occupied it several nights. I was May Banker’s guest. I saw May Banker that night. She was in my room. She left me about 12 o’clock. I had not disrobed. She occupied a room at the head of the stairs on the floor above.

“‘I had a diamond pin, a pair of earrings, four bracelets, watch and finger rings. Three of the brace- lets were worth about $1,000 each, the fourth one about $7,000. They were on my wrists. The pin and earrings were under my pillow. The earrings were worth about $8,000, the pin about $5,000. My other jewelry was in my trunk.

‘When the men entered they said: ‘We won’t harm you, but keep quiet.’ One of them took me by the throat and placed a revolver at my head. They then took the jewelry. I had a revolver under my pillow. I always have it there. They broke open a desk in the room. My door was open during all this. I did not go to the ball. Nobody persuaded me not to go. It would be hard to identify the thieves, as they wore handkerchiefs over their faces. The prisoners do not look like the men. They are not stout enough.

[Pointing to Cannon witness said:]

‘He is about the height of one of the men. Could not say if they had beards. I have gotten the property back — three or four days after it was stolen. On the advice of my attorney I shipped it away.

‘The thieves were in my room twenty or twenty-five minutes. When they left they locked the door on the outside. I don’t know how they got out. I did not hear their footsteps, as they made no noise. I saw Miss Banker about an hour after the robbery; she expressed sympathy for the loss. Miss Banker told me she was awake in her room between 3 and 4 o’clock, and was smoking. Yes, she knew I had the jewelry, she has seen me wear it.”

On the return of Effie Hankins to Chicago she talked freely to the reporters, and implicated May Banker in the robbery of her diamonds — in so far as knowledge of the thieves and disposition of the plunder was concerned — and likewise hinted that May Banker’s paramour knew more about the affair than had been made apparent on the trial of the case. May Banker was discharged on preliminary examination before Recorder Davey, but her house had gained so bad a reputation that none dared to venture into it for fear of being robbed, and she sold out all her furniture and effects, except her wardrobe and jewelry, and left the city for parts unknown.

Detective Kerwin went to Montgomery, and on April 12, 1886, returned to New Orleans, having Tommy White, alias Roberts, alias J. C. Smith, in his custody. The charge against him is robbing Mr. Jackson, of Selma, Ala., a guest at the Hotel Royal, in New Orleans. Kerwin had a requisition for Wilson, the “Peoria Kid,” but it does not appear that Wilson was returned. White was convicted for this offense, and sentenced to eighteen months in State prison at Baton Rouge, La., on May 28, 1886. He was taken there on June 17, 1886. This latter fact is mentioned as, under the laws of Louisiana, a convict’s sentence does not commence until he enters the prison.

The following is a description of Cannon’s companions: Tom White, alias Roberts, alias Montreal Tom, hotel thief and bank sneak, was forty-two years old in 1886. Height, 5 feet 10 inches. Weight, 150 pounds. Black hair and mustache, gray eyes, dark complexion. Born in Canada. Is a consumptive. George Stacy, alias Wilson, alias The Peoria Kid, was twenty-three years old in 1886. Height, 5 feet 8 inches. Weight, 150 pounds. Gray eyes, auburn hair, freckled face, fresh complexion. Very smiling address. Is well educated. He was discharged at Montgomery, Ala., on April 5, 1886, and arrested again at Cairo, Ill., and sent to jail, in May, 1886, in company of George Jelt, or Jeff, another desperate thief.

Cannon’s picture is a very good one, taken in New Orleans, La., in 1886.